Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Dead Meat Trade.

36.

asked the Minister for Agriculture if, in view of the progressive deterioration of the dead meat trade, with the loss of jobs in a valuable industry, he will impose an embargo on any further export of cattle on the hoof, at least for the period that the present emergency continues in the trade.

The current difficulties of the meat trade are due primarily to the seasonal shortage of beef cattle for slaughter, which has been aggravated by the exceptionally high level of slaughterings last year and substantial exports of live cattle, both legal and illegal.

As regards legal exports, a prohibition is not permissible under EEC Regulations and, indeed, would not be in our long term interests. Also it would reduce competition for cattle supplies and, by weakening prices, affect returns to producers and, as a result, production in future years. I am, however, taking steps to ensure that conditions of fair competition for the available cattle exist between meat factories and bona fide live exporters.

As to illegal exports, my Department have asked the customs authorities to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to eliminate this practice.

The predominant work of the customs authorities is the control of imports. Is the Minister satisfied that there are sufficient inspection facilities to control exports?

I am satisfied as far as legal exports are concerned. It is illegal exports which have caused the main problems and we are taking measures to correct them.